Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Edith Wharton (January 24, 1862August 11, 1937) was an American novelist, short story writer, and designer.

Early life
In 1902 she built The Mount, her estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, which was designed by her and exemplifies her design principles. The house and gardens have undergone extensive restoration and are open to the public from May through October. Edith Wharton wrote several of her novels while living there, including her 1905 novel, The House of Mirth, which constitutes the first of many large-scale efforts to chronicle the true nature of old New York. She maintained residence at The Mount until 1911, while at the same time becoming increasingly attached to her life in France. First, she resided at 58 Rue de Varenne, Paris, in an apartment that belonged to George Washington Vanderbilt II. Then, in 1918, once the chaos of the Great War had subsided, she abandoned her fashionable apartment for the more tranquil Pavillon Colombe, whose rich history intrigued her immensely, in nearby Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt. And, finally, she acquired Sainte-Claire le Château, formerly a convent, in the southern village of Hyères, to which she retreated during the winters and springs.
Helped by her husband and her influential connections in the French government (primarily by Walter Berry, then president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris and, in Edith's words, "the love of all my life"), she was among the few foreigners in France who had any access to their funds during the war and was also allowed to travel extensively by motorcar to the dangerous front lines of the war. Wharton described these trips in a series of articles later published as Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belfort.
Throughout the war, she labored tirelessly in charitable efforts for refugees, and for her indispensable aid she was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1916. The scope of her relief activities is astounding: Wharton operated work rooms for unemployed Frenchwomen, held concerts to provide work for musicians, supported tuberculosis hospitals, and founded the American Hostels for the relief of Belgian refugees. In 1916, Wharton edited a volume entitled The Book of the Homeless, featuring writings, art and musical scores from almost every major European artist of the day. After the war, she returned to the United States only once more — to receive her honorary doctorate from Yale University in 1923.

Literary Success
The Age of Innocence (1920), perhaps her best known work, won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, making her the first woman to win the award. She spoke flawless French and many of her books were published in both French and English.
Wharton was friend and confidante to many gifted intellectuals of her time: Henry James, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide were all guests of hers at one time or another. Bernard Berenson and Kenneth Clark were valued friends as well, and she was the godmother of Clark's second son, Colin (1932–2002), who wrote the book The Prince, the Showgirl and Me about his work as third assistant director of the film The Prince and the Showgirl. Her meeting with F. Scott Fitzgerald is described by the editors of her letters as "one of the better-known failed encounters in the American literary annals". She was also good friends with Theodore Roosevelt.
Wharton continued writing until her death on August 11, 1937, aged 75, in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France. She is buried in the Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles, France.
Wharton's last novel, The Buccaneers, was unfinished at the time of her death. Marion Mainwaring finished the story after carefully studying the notes and synopsis Wharton had previously written. The novel was published in 1938 (unfinished version) and 1993 (Mainwaring's completion).

Later Life
She died in 1937 at her villa, Pavilion Colombes, near Saint Brice, Seine-et-Oise.

Many of Wharton's novels are characterized by a subtle use of dramatic irony. Having grown up in upper-class pre-World War I society, Wharton became one of its most astute critics. In such works as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence she employed both humor and profound empathy to describe the lives of New York's upper-class and the vanishing of their world in the early years of the 20th century.

Edith Wharton Characteristics of her writing

Verses (Novel), 1878
Only a Child, 1879 (poem)
The Decoration of Houses, 1897
The Greater Inclination, 1899
The Touchstone, 1900
The Line of Least Resistance, 1900
The Rembrandt, 1900
April Showers, 1900
Crucial Instances, 1901
The Moving Finger, 1901
The Recovery, 1901
Margaret of Cortona, 1901 (poem)
The Valley of Decision, 1902
The Quicksand, 1902
The Reckoning, 1902
The Mission of Jane, 1902
The Dilletante, 1903
The Vice of Reading, 1903
Italian Villas and Their Gardens, 1904
The Last Asset, 1904
The Letter (Novel), 1904
The Other Two, 1904
The Pot-Boiler, 1904
The Best Man (Novel), 1905
The House of Mirth, 1905
Italian Backgrounds, 1905
In Trust, 1906
The Introducers, 1906
The Fruit of the Tree, 1907
Madame de Treymes, 1907
A Motor-Flight Through France, 1908
The Bolted Door, 1908
Expiation, 1908
Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse, 1909
A Grave, 1909 (poem)
Ogrin the Hermit, 1909
The Comrade, 1910
The Letters, 1910
Other Times, Other Manners, 1911
Ethan Frome, 1912
The Reef, 1912
The Long Run (Novel), 1912
The Custom of the Country, 1913
Coming Home, 1915
Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort, 1915
The Great Blue Tent, 1915 (poem)
The Book of the Homeless, 1916
Xingu and Other Stories, 1916
The Bunner Sisters, 1916
Summer, 1917
The Marne, 1918
The Refugees, 1919
French Ways and Their Meaning, 1919
The Seed of the Faith, 1919
Writing a War Story, 1919
The Age of Innocence, 1920
In Morocco, 1920
In Provence and Lyrical Epigrams, 1920 (poem)
The Glimpses of the Moon, 1922
A Son at the Front, 1923
Old New York , 1924 (novel)
The Mother's Recompense, 1925
The Writing of Fiction, 1925
Here and Beyond, 1926
Twelve Poems, 1926
Twilight Sleep, 1927
The Children, 1928
Hudson River Bracketed, 1929
The Gods Arrive, 1932
Roman Fever, 1934
A Backward Glance, 1934
The Buccaneers, 1938 Further Reading
Edith Wharton (played by actress Clare Higgins) travels across North Africa with Indiana Jones in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (Chapter 16, which is entitled Tales of Innocence).
Edith Wharton was mentioned in the HBO Series "Entourage" in the 13th episode of the third season. A script for Wharton's The Glimpses of the Moon is handed to Vince for him to read by his new agent Amanda. The film is set to be directed by Sam Mendes. Edith Wharton period films are also lampooned in the same episode by fictional agent Ari Gold, who states all her stories are about a guy who likes a girl, but he can't (have sex) with her for five years because "THOSE WERE THE TIMES!" Ironically, the character of Amanda is played by actress Carla Gugino, who played the lead in a prominent Edith Wharton adaption for the BBC & PBS, The Buccaneers (1995). This was one of Gugino's first large roles.

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